The controversial $40,000 Sea Lore sculpture might end up at Willows Beach, but won’t be moving anytime soon.
Ballyhooed by some, poo-pooed by others, Oak Bay council punted the decision on where to put it, opting instead (with a 4-3 split vote at Monday night’s meeting) to refer it to the next committee of the whole so the public could have a chance to share their thoughts.
Coun. Eric Zhelka motioned for referring, backed by Couns. Cairine Green, Esther Paterson and Hazel Braithwaite.
The concept of the Sea Lore started a year ago based on the donor’s original idea of putting a piece of art on the foreshore rock between Haynes and Queens’ parks. An Oak Bay jury fielded 32 proposals from artists, settling on the Octeavina sculpture by designer Lisa McCulloch and sculptor Fred Dobbs. Inspired by the maritime character of Oak Bay, the duo have yet to be paid and the project is still just a maquette.
Zhelka was the most assertive in his feelings about the matter.
“This was done off the [municipal] books… [Sea Lore] does not tie in with ArtsAlive, I do not understand how it ties in with First Nations [let alone] how it ties in with Oak Bay, and there is an aspect of colonialism. I do not support this,” Zhelka said.
Greene questioned the possibility of moving the sculpture Sea Lore into the ArtsAlive program.
Most agreed that Oak Bay needs a policy in place for how to deal with donated art. In this instance, an anonymous donor and Oak Bay council had originally partnered to put the Sea Lore on a rock that is exposed in the tidal area off of Beach Drive, between Haynes and Queens’ parks.
After public outcry on the location, a search for a new spot has been underway. The latest proposal is for the sea walk next to the playground at Willows Beach.
But council says that location won’t be considered yet.
“After waiting this long, why not go another two weeks in case the public says this is not what the public want on their water front,” Green said.
Mayor Kevin Murdoch noted it is rare to have a piece of public art this expensive donated to Oak Bay.
“The gift of a $40,000 piece of art is something I don’t want to pass on lightly,” he said.